U.S. Labor Dept. sues Hudson companies over wages

The U.S. Department of Labor is accusing a network of Hudson construction companies that reportedly hires Canadian immigrants of paying its workforce less than minimum wage and shortchanging them on overtime.

The federal Department of Labor last month filed a civil lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Concord against Dipat Construction Inc., Jerry Construction Inc. and Kel-Rick Construction Management Inc., seeking three years worth of unpaid wages and liquidated damages on behalf of 110 workers.

The Labor Department has charged the construction companies with “willfully and repeatedly” paying their employees less than the federal minimum wage of $5.15 a hour, and not paying the laborers overtime for working more than 40-hour weeks.

In a five-page complaint filed March 30, the department also charged the companies, which it claims are a “unified operation,” with failing to make and keep adequate and accurate records of its employees’ wages and hours, which is another violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938.

Labor Department Spokesman John Chavez would not say how little the workers were actually being paid, nor would he reveal the total amount of money the department believes the Hudson companies owe them in back wages.

Chavez also would not say what prompted the department to investigate the companies, or how long the investigation took. The complaint charges the companies with violations beginning March 30, 2004.

Chavez did indicate the department tried to reach a settlement agreement with the owners and operators of the three companies, Jerry, Johanne and Patrick Poulin, before filing the civil suit.

In its complaint, the department alleges the three separate companies, which are all housed on Security Drive, are in fact a “unified operation.”

Dipat Construction and Jerry Construction are in the same warehouse at 5 Security Drive and share the same telephone line.

Kel-Rick Construction Management is operated out of an abutting warehouse at 3 Security Drive.

Both properties also have had common owners.

5 Security Drive LLC, the current owner of the Dipat and Jerry Construction warehouse, was listed as the owner of the warehouse at 3 Security Drive until 2006, when it was sold to 3 Security Drive LLC for $485,000, according to town records.

In 1999, Gerard and Johanne Poulin sold the Kel-Rick warehouse to 5 Security Drive LLC for $450,000, according to town records. The Department of Labor would not confirm the nationality of the shortchanged workers, saying it was “irrelevant” to the investigation.

“Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, it doesn’t matter,” said Chavez. “If they were working, they are owed their wages regardless of their immigration status.”

Canadian ties

According to a published report, Kel-Rick Construction has hired Canadian immigrants in the past.

Kel-Rick Construction hired Canadian workers through Can-Am Immigration, a Montreal-based immigration brokerage firm that helps skilled Canadian laborers apply for temporary visas to work in the United States, according to a report in a Canadian business newspaper.

The article, published in GTA Construction Report of Toronto, quotes Johanne Poulin as saying Kel-Rick is ecstatic with the Canadian workers that have been supplied through Can-Am.

“It’s really tough to find real good workers, but Canadians fit the bill perfectly,” Poulin is quoting as saying. “This is the greatest thing for us. Can-Am supplied us with 60 visas, and so far, we’ve used most of them. The result has been that we’ve met our shortage of carpenters, metal stud framing and sheet rock specialists with fabulous workers who are very well-trained in what they do.”

Poulin added that Canadian workers would definitely be a part of the company for years to come, according to the article.

Attempts to reach Can-Am for comment about its involvement with Kel-Rick weren’t successful.

Chavez said federal investigators had “never heard of Can-Am Immigration,” and that “such an arrangement would have nothing to do with our investigation.”

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